Christopher Plummer: “The theater is the highest point of art for us, the actor, because it encompasses our whole bodies”

christopher-plummer-barrymoreThough 83 year-old Christopher Plummer has seen a career uptick in film in recent years by appearing in popular favorites like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and winning an Oscar for Beginnings, he’s remained committed to smaller projects like Barrymore, a film adaptation of a play about the final months in the life of actor John Barrymore (grandfather of Drew Barrymore).  The most interesting aspect of the role is that Plummer originally performed the play on Broadway (he won a Tony for Best Actor in 1997 for the part).  

Speaking with the Boston Globe, Plummer talks about the difference between acting the play for the stage and acting it for the movie camera.

Plummer says it is important for an actor to balance a career by acting both on the stage and in film, saying, “When I make movies, I immediately go back to the theater. It not only keeps you alive, but it keeps your craft in order.” 

He elaborates on stage acting versus film acting by adding, “There is a different kind of acting. I think the Method acting which became prevalent in the ’40s and ’50s started a whole new wave of ways of playing characters. It somehow comes out more suitable for the screen than it does for the stage. You can use the Method to great effect on the screen because of course you can mumble and still be heard, whereas in the theater you have to project that same reality to the last row. The theater is the highest point of art for us, the actor, because it encompasses our whole bodies, our feet, our voice, everything we have as equipment is necessary on the stage, whereas sometimes you can get away with performances on the screen which are very powerful, but not necessarily using your whole body. . . . [In Barrymore] I had to be as big as I could be in front of a camera, because it was a stage performance, to give variety and color to the piece, and then I used screen technique when the camera moved in. It surprised me because it captured these moments where you see, my God, there’s something else he’s not telling us. It’s nothing to do with me; it’s just that extraordinary accident that happens on the screen. I think I got — I hope I got — the essence of Jack Barrymore.”

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